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Powerplay comes up big as Flames knock off Stars 5-1

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick /

In a league like this, you live and die by special teams.

Get more than you give, and you're well on your way.

You'd bottle it if you could.

That's what makes what we saw Sunday so darn impressive.


Video: Alanna Nolan recaps the big win over Dallas


The Flames - featuring all kinds of talent at their disposal - climbing the ladder, but still looking for that consistent winning formula when up a man.

On the other side, the Dallas Stars - a giant on the PK, having the entered the night with 44 straight kills on their home turf.

One would be good. Critical, even.

But two?

Or even three?

Talk about a home-run.

Matthew Tkachuk led the way with a goal and two assists as the Flames - who were altogether dominant with the man-advantage - blew past the Stars with a pair of powerplay strikes late in the second period, and one more for good measure in the third, en route to a 5-1 victory in the Big D.

Elias Lindholm had three helpers, and Andrew Mangiapane, Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund and Derek Ryan scored singles for visitors, who improve to 19-14-5 on the year with the win.  

David Rittich made 26 stops, and was especially good in the first 30 minutes when the homeside had a slight territorial edge, and again early in the third when he robbed Corey Perry with a 10-bell toe save to keep Dallas' late push in check.

On the powerplay, the Flames were snapping it around with ease and generating all kinds of great chances - including a crossbar by captain Mark Giordano as part of the deluge.

They finished the night 3-for-5, while the PK was a perfect 3-for-3.

The Flames opened the scoring at 12:11 of the first period, as the top line went to work with a nifty bit of stick work deep in enemy territory. Mangiapane was the beneficiary, setting up between the hash marks and opening himself up for a pass, which he got - promptly - on a beautiful, one-touch effort by Elias Lindholm. Mangiapane made no mistake, snapping the weak-side one-timer past the blocker of Ben Bishop.

Tkachuk picked up the other assist as the visitors went give-and-go, to tic-tac-toe, for the icebreaker.


Tweet from @NHLFlames: Big Dog Manny, finishing off this 🔥 play.#CGYvsDAL | #Flames


But the lead was short-lived.

The Stars evened things up only 38 seconds later, as Denis Gurianov showed great speed down the right side, turning the corner and shielding the puck from Noah Hanifin, before chipping a quick shot over the glove of Rittich.

A beautiful solo effort.

Calgary native Justin Dowling - who scored his first NHL goal in the teams' last meeting on Nov. 13 - was the primary setup man.

Shots on goal favoured the Flames 9-7 after one.

The Flames had a bit of a slow start to the second - with the Stars getting the first eight shots of the period - but the visitors really took over in the back half of the frame.

Relentless pressure turned to a powerplay and, finally, at 12:28, after the Flames did all kinds of great work to put the Stars back on their heels, they hit pay dirt.

Tkachuk capped a wild sequence by walking off the right circle and firing a beautiful shot under the bar score his 14th of the year and give the Flames a 2-1 lead.


Tweet from @NHLFlames: 🚀#CGYvsDAL | #Flames


And they weren't done.

Zac Rinaldo - who was inserted after sitting the past four games as a healthy scratch - drew a tripping penalty on Stars captain Jamie Benn on the very next shift, and the big guns went right back to work, smelling blood.

Again, the Flames clinically worked the seams, allowing Tkachuk - stationed along the goal line - to feed Monahan with a lovely centering pass, giving No. 23 a tap-in from only a few feet out.


Tweet from @NHLFlames: Power play: 🔥#CGYvsDAL | #Flames


The Flames added another PPG at 10:21 of the third, as Backlund got the monkey off his back with an incredible drive to the net. He took the puck with speed down the left side, cut hard to the cage and put a quick shot into the pads. Bishop made the initial save in tight, but Backlund stayed with it and deposited his own rebound for his first goal in 18 games (Nov. 7).

Ryan rounded out the scoring with an empty-netter at 17:56.


Video: "We were able to one-touch a lot of pucks."




"It felt like everytime we were out there - I don't know if we got four or five opportunities tonight - but even on the ones we weren't scoring on, I felt like we were snapping it around pretty good. When we're at our best, the puck is on and off our stick, whether it's a shot or hitting the open guy, and going from there."


He's an easy guy to play with. He's very simple-minded when he plays. (It) starts in the D zone, but he's exceptional offensively, has a great shot, can score with the best of them, and can make some great plays, too. ... If he's open, I'm going to pass to him every time. I'm sure he feels the same way. Just use each other."


"The last five or six games, I think we've been playing well. Obviously, we haven't been rewarded, but we've played a lot of minutes against their best guys. You're not going to score every time, but we're getting chances and the last two games, it's been going in for us."


"Lindy - some poise there - made a good play down to Chucky and Chucky hit me in the slot. That's something that we work on, obviously, in practice and it's nice for it to pay off."


"We've got to keep the energy. There's no excuse for anybody to be tired or anything like that. We're coming into a break and you want to feel good about yourself going into those things."


"They're both smart. That's the thing that stands out to me. They're able to get a feel now for where each other is around the ice, and that comes with playing together. How smart they are with respect to using the ice, and how smart they are to be able to understand where that next play is, and they both protect the puck well, so they can bid themselves some time to make the next play."


Video: "We were snapping it around pretty good."


Zac Rinaldo hit a major milestone Sunday, suiting up for his 500th game as a professional (357 in the NHL; 143 in the AHL). Originally drafted in the sixth round, 178th overall in 2008, Rinaldo said that he had plenty of doubters over the course of his year, "people who didn't believe in me," and that this game was dedicated to them: "That's a really nice accomplishment," he said. "I wasn't even supposed to get one game, never mind 500." Rinaldo, 29, has 40 points (17G, 23A) in his NHL career, including three points (2G, 1A) in five games with the Flames. He'd been a healthy scratch in each of the past four, but was eager to get back in the lineup and show the coaching staff that he belongs. I've been working hard in practice every day and focusing on little things I can improve on in my game," Rinaldo said. "A big part of it was playing in the A, at the beginning of the year. I was playing 15, 17 minutes a night and that really got my confidence up." … Rittich picked up his first NHL assist on Backlund's third-period tally.



Here are the forward lines, D pairings and goalie to start the game:



Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Mikael Backlund
Matthew Tkachuk - Elias Lindholm - Andrew Mangiapane
Milan Lucic - Derek Ryan - Sam Bennett
Zac Rinaldo - Mark Jankowski - Tobias Rieder



Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie
Noah Hanifin - Travis Hamonic
Michael Stone - Rasmus Andersson



David Rittich


Scratched: Dillon Dube, Michael Frolik and Oliver Kylington



The Flames get right back to work and finish up their pre-holiday schedule with a matinee against the Minnesota Wild tomorrow at 3 p.m. MT. The team will then get the 24th, 25th and 26th off, before meeting in Edmonton for the season's first instalment of the Battle of Alberta on Friday, Dec. 27. The Flames then return to the Scotiabank Saddledome on Sunday, Dec. 29, as they host the Vancouver Canucks to begin a three-game homestand (click here for tickets). It also happens to be Jarome Iginla Bobblehead Night! Be one of the first 3,500 fans in the building and you'll receive a complimentary Iggy bobblehead.

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